Injured caddy Billy Foster admits watching this weekend’s Ryder Cup will be a bitter-sweet occasion for him.
The Keighley -born bag carrier rates the competition between Europe and the United States as the ultimate event in golf and one of the top five in world sport – but he will be not be involved for only the second time in the last 25 years.
Foster suffered knee ligament damage back in May, which has left him sidelined all summer, but he had initially hoped to be back as Lee Westwood’s right-hand man in time for the Chicago showdown at Medinah, which starts on Friday.
However, the injury is taking longer to shake off and the Bingley St Ives member underwent a second operation last week, meaning he will not be back on the course until the new year.
Foster said: “It will be difficult missing this week of all weeks. I want to be there and be part of the team and that’s very frustrating.”
Since making his first appearance in 1987, when he caddied for Gordon Brand Junior, the 46-year-old has been a regular among the European set-up. The only match he has missed since was in 1995.
Having been part of some of the Ryder Cup’s most iconic moments – he caddied for Seve Ballesteros in the ‘War on the Shore’ at Kiawah Island and was on the bag for a grieving Darren Clarke at the K Club – he admits that watching this weekend’s drama unfold from his front room will not be easy.
He said: “Ever since Europe have had a decent side, I’ve been fortunate to be involved. It’s going to be tough (missing out) as I guess I’ve been part of the furniture over the last 25 years.
“I love the whole team spirit thing and camaraderie about the cup – learning to say the right things at the right time, being alongside the experienced players and helping the new ones.”
Foster’s experience is not lost on skipper Jose-Maria Olazabal, who had invited him along as part of the European camp.
The Eldwick -based caddy said: “He was very disappointed when I told him I couldn’t make it due to my injury but I’ve had a couple of nice phone calls from him, including one after my second operation.”
Foster witnessed the Spaniard’s rousing speech as vice-captain to Nick Faldo that brought some players to tears on the eve of the singles four years ago when America won in Valhalla.
He said: “Irrelevant of the result this weekend, he will be the finest-ever captain. He is a tremendous man, has excellent man management skills and once he starts a speech he’s got you.”
Since his freak injury in the States – picked up while taking part in a football kickabout on the eve of a tournament – former Holy Family School pupil Foster has had to rest up for the majority of the last five months. He admits the inactivity has been driving him crazy.
He said: “Having done caddying for the last 30 years, I’ve just been staring at the same four walls. I’ve not been able to go for a walk, a bike ride or just do normal things.
“It’s just been a boring existence. When it comes down to a choice between Jeremy Kyle and Homes Under the Hammer, you feel like topping yourself!
“It’s made me appreciate more what I do and made me want to come back and work harder.”
Following his second operation to clear out remaining debris from his right knee, Foster is now in more optimistic mood.
He said: “I couldn’t straighten my leg properly as there was a lot of scar tissue around the joint. That’s been cleared out now and it feels miles better. It has been a long, dark tunnel but I can see the light again.”
As for this weekend’s clash, Foster predicts it will go down to the wire – just like two years ago when Europe won back the cup in the last singles match.
He said: “The bookies are never that far out and they have USA as favourites. There are two outstanding teams. We can’t have a much stronger team and the Americans look fantastic.
“Six years ago you would ask where the next decent American golfer was going to come from. But their rookies like Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley , Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner are tremendous players.
“They are also fantastic putters, who have the bottle to keep their heads under pressure.”